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This US masterpiece smashed records after selling for $110.5 million

The painting of a skull-like head in oil-stick was valued pre-sale in excess of $60 million.

Yusaku Maezawa Source: yusaku2020/Instagram

A JAPANESE BILLIONAIRE bought a Basquiat masterpiece for $110.5 million in New York last night, setting a new auction record for the 20th-century great nearly 30 years after his death.

The 1982 ‘Untitled’ of a skull-like head in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint on a giant canvas was the star lot of the auction season this May, which wraps today with more than $1 billion in sales.

Sotheby’s said it was snapped up by the same Japanese entrepreneur, 41-year-old Yusaku Maezawa, who set the previous Jean-Michel Basquiat auction record last year, dropping $57.3 million on a self-portrait.

The $110.5 million price tag (over €99 million) was a record for any US artist at auction and the highest at auction for a post-1980 artwork, Sotheby’s said.

“I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” Maezawa wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of himself with the picture.

When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.

Yusaku Source: Instagram

Cheers and applause greeted the sale, which almost doubled the previous Basquiat auction record of $57 million. During bidding, the auctioneer offered occasional moments of levity and encouragement.

“It’s a great masterpiece at $98 million dollars,” he said to laughter in the room. The $110.5 million price tag includes the buyer’s premium.

Basquiat, born in Brooklyn to Haitian and Puerto Rican parents died in 1988 of an overdose aged just 27 after a fleeting eight-year career.

‘Untitled’ provoked a tense 10-minute bidding war in the room and on the telephone, before ultimately going to Maezawa via telephone.

The canvas had been virtually unseen in public since being bought in 1984 for $19,000. It was valued pre-sale in excess of $60 million.

‘Pantheon of greats’

Sotheby’s announced that the painting will be housed eventually in a museum based in Maezawa’s hometown of Chiba, Japan.

The house parted with a total of $319 million worth of post-war and contemporary art at yesterday’s evening auction, one day after rival Christie’s sold $448 million at its own version of the same sale.

NY: Media Preview for Sotheby's evening auctions of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art Antar dated 1985 by Jean-Michel Basquiat (estimated $3-4 million) hangs on the wall at the Media Preview for Sotheby's New York evening auctions of Impressionist & Modern Art and Contemporary Art. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

The subject of much of Basquiat’s work – ordeals endured by blacks in America – is finding renewed resonance in the wake of nationwide US protests since 2014 about the shootings of unarmed black men by police.

Christie’s sold Basquiat’s ‘La Hara’ – an acrylic and oil-stick of an angry-looking New York police officer — for $35 million on Wednesday.

“Breaking $100 million for a work which is that recent is definitely extraordinary. I think it just speaks about the talent of this guy,” said Gregoire Billault, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art.

“I’ve never seen so much emotions in such a painting,” he said. “He’s bringing something never seen before.”

“Now he goes into the pantheon of great, great artists,” said Oliver Barker, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe. “It’s as simple as that.”

Christie’s announced yesterday that its impressionist, modern, post-war and contemporary sales this week totaled $842.5 million, which it said was up $220 million over its sales last season in November.

NY: Media Preview for Sotheby's evening auctions of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art Untitled (Oreo) dated 1988 by Jean-Michel Basquiat (estimated $700-900,000). Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Sotheby’s concludes its week of sales today.

Sotheby’s also sold Roy Lichtenstein’s “Nude Sunbathing” for $24 million yesterday and broke records for Keith Haring, Blinky Palermo, Mira Schendel, Wolfgang Tillmans, Jonas Wood and Takeo Yamaguchi.

This season saw a majority of art either coming fresh to market or being offered at auction for the first time in 20 years or more.

Pablo Picasso holds the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. His ‘The Women of Algiers (Version 0)’ fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in New York in 2015.

© – AFP 2017

Read: Parisian taxi driver returns €1.5 million painting that was accidentally left in his cab

Read: Here are some of the big name artists’ paintings that sold for €50 last week

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